An Experiential Learning Event with Wounded Warriors

I’ve used this forum to write and share my thoughts about living experiences. I’ve hoped that my thoughts might help someone who reads them. I’ve learned to conduct myself in life as a role model whenever I can, a mentor if you will, each day, each step along my personal journey. And, I’ve learned that through personal reflection I learn to take my next steps from a place of mindful intention.

It is from this perspective that I feel so fortunate to have shared a few days last week with the wounded veterans who participated in Wild Mountain U’s first program at Stratton Mountain. Organized and supported by the Wounded Warrior Project, the event was intended to provide a short health and wellness retreat for wounded warriors who live in the Northeast. Similar to other events we have conducted for other organizations, the program was unique, special, and life-changing. Thank you to Stratton Mountain. Thank you to Bill Hannigan of WWP.

Here are some of my reflections…

We continue to see through our real-life experience that the practice of yoga and mindful-learning can be life-changing for people battling through the symptoms of trauma and PTSD. The practice of developing awareness of thoughts through focused attention on the body and breath helps re-establish healthy internal byways that might previously have been stuck or frozen as a result of the trauma. The mind-body-spirit connections are powerful, and yoga can be a powerful healing tool. We were fortunate to spend time morning and afternoon as a group in Stratton’s new Living Room yoga studio practicing yoga, breathing, and meditation.

The opportunity to be a part of a supportive community where each individual can feel safe and at ease is the basis for any successful program. This happens through intentional design and process; it also depends on positive attitudes of mutual acceptance and dignity. Each individual is important. Each individual affects what happens. The opportunity for warriors to meet with other warriors of similar experience is so vital… and part of a successful program is facilitating this process than letting positive things happen. We spent casual group time at the resort, in the Inn at Stratton Mountain, at Bentley’s, at the Living Room and Sports Center, and in Hearthstone condos. It was an honor to meet and get to know each warrior.

Being outside in a natural setting doing physical activity supports natural healthy, relaxed, and authentic behavior. We were fortunate to spend time walking from location to location on dirt roads and pathways, and to spend time at the top of the mountain walking around and playing in the snow.

Being aware of healthy options and practices provides alternatives for comprehensive paths of healing. We spent time learning about fitness, nutrition, food shopping and preparation, and even spent some time making our own juice! Stratton is fortunate to have a fitness center with a gym and indoor swimming pool. Our hope is that these wellness tools will inspire further inquiry and a sense of empowerment. After all, our minds and bodies are a product of what we digest, how we exercise, how we rest, etc… things we can control.

As much as I like to think of myself as a mentor, in reality each person who attended this event was my mentor. Learning to live through the challenges in life these warriors are faced with gives them perspectives in life that are unique, insightful, and inspiring to others, including me. Sometimes, it seems that we have a hard time letting go of the way we think things or people should be like, and just accepting (and being grateful for) the way things are. It is especially hard when your body and mind are stuck in the past as a result of the trauma and you are struggling against comparisons and judgment about the future and just trying to survive in your present daily existence. When we let ourselves be as we are, and focus on small positive steps, sometimes things fall into place better. It was nice to be around a supportive group of warriors, a group of warriors whose nature is based on dedicated work, honor, service, integrity, and mutual support, in an environment where we could just be ourselves and learn together. I give thanks to each of the warriors for being exactly who they are, and for bringing themselves to Stratton and Wild Mountain U… and being a part of my life.

For me, this event indeed inspired me to keep walking the walk I’m walking, with clear and mindful intention that this is my way.

Twelve-Twenty / Twenty-Twelve

Is this the end? Or, is this just the beginning?

Yes, if our days are like they have been in the past, the sun will start rising sooner and the sun will start setting later, each day bringing more and more light.

Perhaps, though, it is time for a bigger shift. A shift in energy…  A shift in consciousness… A shift in how we treat one another. A shift towards enduring light and feelings of love and compassion… Aren’t we ready for a new era in our towns and cities?

It’s the end of the world as we know it… (and I feel fine…)

Here is how I see the new era, as if it were happening now:

It is commonplace for each of us to see the unique and special qualities inherent in each other. We now scoff at the days when our relationships were based on comparison, competition and judgment.

We relate to one another with a natural attitude of acceptance, presence, dignity, and gratitude. We’ve let go of the need to always win and be better and take advantage of others.

We make one another feel safe and understood just by the way we are. We’ve come to realize that put-downs and bullying were just expressions of personal insecurities… and only bred a society of dis-ease.

We’ve come to live with nature in a way that we can sustain life. Our former habits of irresponsive consumption just vanished one day when we realized we’re all living on a finite Earth together… and everything is connected.

We’ve learned that everyone can thrive when we are each allowed to express our own personal goodness from a place of heartfelt positive feelings and intuitive decision-making. The era during which rational thinking and analytic comparison ruled our actions ended just as easily as it started.

We’ve accepted that miracles and wonderment are normal and limitless when we pay attention in the present moment to what is actually going on around us. It seemed so easy for humans to let go of events of the past and attachments to how the future should be like, once we realized that our lives are only happening in the present moment.

The idea of blaming someone else or something else for one’s own behavior or actions seems so antiquated now. Our good health, how we act, and our common survival is now up to each of us to positively affect and be responsible for… the days of a society that relied to doctors, lawyers, elected officials, and insurance providers to take care of us are long gone.

Young people are now the leaders of the world. One day, after a school shooting in an old town called Newtown, young people rose up in protest against the society their parents created… and began a new world, a new era where human relationships are based on mutual respect, interdependence, and common ground. The old governing leadership that promoted political in-fighting and self-promotion, judgment and divisiveness, and independent thinking was abolished. People realized that individual positive actions each day, each moment, actually do affect the world and everything else that happens. And only the young people of the world, unclouded by the perceptions and attachments of the old world, were able to see clearly that a new reality was indeed happening… in that present moment of twelve-twenty / twenty-twelve.

A Blessing from a Warrior

God has blessed me with countless blessings in my life. Some I take for granted like my ability to talk; I have 10 fingers and toes and good health. The main thing I would never forget is the 3 days I was in Love with this Angel. Some may never understand why I’m thankful but you and I know.

To hold you in my arms on the beach of a tropical island, while the sun was setting was amazing. Gazing in your eyes and both of us wishing to hold back the hand of time so this moment would never end. Crazy huh, having a struggle with time. Facing the fact that the only way I can have this beautiful scenery would be in my mind. I’ll never forget the colors of the horizon and above lit up colors never before seen, a new chemistry of love intoxicated the skies in Heaven. In fact the essence of this new Love created Heaven on Earth. The reflection of the sky on the ocean surface, and rainbow colored clouds intertwine creating breathe taking images. The sand was soft as if I was sinking; in fact yes, indeed i was deeper and deeper in Love. To experience Love was amazing. To keep Love and embrace it will be a blessing. So I want to say Thank You God for that experience of Love.

 Submitted by Joel Ettiene, St. Croix, USVI, 2011

Setting Goals. Getting a Coach. For Me.

It’s getting near the end of the year and I’ll turn 55 this month. So many exciting opportunities have come my way this year. I have so much to be grateful for; I have so much to look forward to. I feel like I am in a good place- healthy, happy, and supported by love and loved ones. I feel like I have much to offer- experience, compassion, and the ability to support others in the pursuit of their dreams.

But it is also time for me to check in with who I am and who I want to be. My quest to be my authentic self and to be a positive influence in this world continues. It’s time to write the next chapter of my life.

April 2012 Escalante

Perched between the past and the future… this is where I am. Now, as always, it’s time to take my next step.

I have decided that I want to be a better coach, a better leader, a better mentor. I have taken strides during the last year to learn as much as I could from as many people and from as many experiences as I could… and to be as open as I could to new discoveries and new opportunities. I have learned to trust my intuition and to feel Divine love.

April in Utah

Looking Upward and Forward… And Doing What I Love

Today, I have decided to set some clear intentions for my next chapter. And today, I will hire a coach to help guide me. A fitness coach. A nutrition coach. A wellness coach. A teacher. Maybe this will be one person. I will share my experiences. I will use these experiences to be a better coach myself. I see myself as a health and wellness coach, a motivator, a spiritual leader. But everyone needs a coach… a teacher… a mentor… themselves. I want to be an awesome athlete… a connected body and mind and spirit. I want to be able to ski and ride with power and style and speed for many years. And be able to share that same exhilaration, passion, happiness, and zest for life with others. I want to live young… and live learning… and be there for those I love. I want to shape a new world.

This is me today… time to write my next chapter. Stay tuned, as I morph my physical self, challenge my mental and emotional self, and explore my spiritual self. Smile, it will be an adventure for sure! I accept impermanence with open arms!

Fall 2011

Pressing Onward and Upward

Positivity and Avoiding Negativity

I am very fortunate to have always been able to see the positive side of things. Not always, but usually. Certainly, part of this comes from a safe upbringing that allowed me to explore who I was, who I wanted to be, and feel loved and supported in the process. But I believe it also comes from practice, a practice of seeing things for their beauty, yes, but also a practice of avoiding people and places that don’t support positiveness. In other words, I avoid negativity.

For me, negativity follows:

Judgment- when we accept things for the way they are, rather than place some sort of value judgment or engage in critical thinking, we are more likely to see the positive and avoid the negative;

Sarcasm- in my view, sarcasm is usually a put-down, an attempt to disguise in humor what you don’t have the courage to say directly and compassionately;

Lack of personal responsibility- when you accept that you have the power to choose, you learn to accept that you are largely responsible for your life and your own actions; you learn that the negative behavior of others isn’t an excuse for your own negative behavior;

Divisiveness- when we seek common ground, connections, and similarities, rather than focus on differences, we all win and there aren’t losers;

Unsupportive behavior- simply put, if someone or something doesn’t bring out the best in you, move on!

Resistance to change- when we let go of our attachment to the way we think things should be like, we open our eyes, our hearts, and our future to endless positive possibilities.

Positivity follows: Acceptance, understanding, personal responsibility, common dignity, mutual support, connectedness, non-attachment, and a general attitude of compassion for others and a sense of worthiness for one’s self.

Positivity usually comes from thinking from your heart-space. Negativity usually comes from thinking from your head-space.

Positivity leads ultimately to the realization that each of us is made from the matter of the Universe, connected to and dependent on all things, and with that, the deep sense of spiritual belonging and importance.

A positive person brings out the best in others, allowing everyone to be authentic and inspired.

A negative person casts shadows over others.

Positivity starts with feelings of love; love of self; love for all others.

A mentor inspires positivity and helps others avoid negativity.

A mentor casts light onto others and provides support for the wings of others to fly.

December 2011

Random Acts of Inspiration